At night, Panama City turns into a miniature Miami, complete with velvet ropes and security guards with dark glasses. The downtown neighborhoods of Bellavista (especially the streets off Avenida Uruguay) and El Cangrejo (along Via Argentina) are all places where young people go to see and be seen. There's a lively, party-hearty vibe at Bellavista's Mystik, identifiable by the huge neon circles on the facade. Inside there are plenty of ringside tables where you can get an up-close view of the dance floor—it's usually filled with women showing off in thigh-high minis and men boogying down in baseball caps to DJ-spun salsa, merengue, and rock (Calle 47; 507-380-0550; www.mystikpanama.com). On the same block is Anemos, with a loungey vibe that attracts a slightly older crowd. The bar's enclosed terrace is a great place to sip a daiquiri on steamy nights (Calle 47; 507-214-6038).
Casco Viejo, the once-decrepit old town, is now a major nighttime destination. Crowds of fashionably dressed twentysomethings spill out onto the street in front of Las Bovedas. The name means "The Vault," and the rough stone walls remind you that this club was once a jail where prisoners were held. The Friday night jazz concerts will blow you away, if the sangria doesn't do it first (Plaza Francia; 507-228-8068).